The View From Olympus: Two Wars

The crisis over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine continues to escalate in ways that suggest part of the Western reaction is agenda-driven. While it appears the airliner was shot down by a Russian-made SA-11, no other Russian involvement has been yet been found. The July 23 Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that senior U.S. intelligence officials “offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement.” The officials said

they did not know who fired the missile or whether any Russian operatives were present at the missile launch. They were not certain that the missile crew was trained in Russia… In terms of who fired the missile, “we don’t  know a name, we don’t know a rank, and we’re not even 100 percent sure of a nationality.”

Despite all these uncertainties, voices in the West howling for a confrontation with Russia grow louder, with both neo-libs and neo-cons heading the pack. At the same time, the most interesting question hanging over the shoot-down continues to be ignored: did the Ukrainian government have foreknowledge of  the event?

As I pointed out in an earlier column, the speed and choreography of Kiev’s reaction suggests prior preparation. That in turn suggests foreknowledge. While it is unlikely Ukraine itself shot the plane down, if it knew the shoot-down was coming and did nothing to stop it, it shares responsibility with those who fired the missile.

Ukrainian foreknowledge of the event could have taken many forms. Kiev may simply have known that the pro-Russian forces had SA-11s and calculated that if it kept the airspace open, an airliner was likely to get hit. Ukraine may have had agents on the scene. Those agents could have acted as agents provocateur, encouraging the SA-11 operators to shoot at anything flying.

The most likely way Kiev may have set up the incident, from what we know now, was to fly a Ukrainian military aircraft near the Malaysian airliner. The July 23 New York Times, reporting on the same conference with U.S. intelligence officials noted in the Plain Dealer, reported that

The officials added that the current American assessment was that the separatists had mistaken the civilian plane for a Ukrainian military jet. The most plausible explanation to me is a mistake,” said one of the intelligence officials . . .

According to the previous day’s Times, during a briefing by two senior Russian military officers,

the Russians said a Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 fighter jet that was airborne at the time briefly approached the same 33,000-feet altitude as the Boeing 777 and was within range to bring it down with an air—to-air missile.

The Sukhoi-25 is a ground attack aircraft, not a fighter, and the only air—to-air missile it would carry would be short range. If the Russian statement is correct, the Sukhoi would have been close enough to the airliner to make misidentification easy.

A Sukhoi 25 attack plane
A Sukhoi-25 attack plane

Why aren’t we hearing more about Kiev’s possible role while demands for “getting tough with Russia reverberate? Because Russia is re-emerging as the most conservative great power, in defense of Christian culture and against political correctness. Both neo-libs and neo-cons accept the cultural revolution of the 1960s, so they see Russia’s role under President Putin as defender of the Faith as a threat. There is an agenda here, and it is one conservatives should oppose. As they used to say on Dragnet, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

The other war of note is that in Gaza. Despite its far higher casualties, Hamas is currently in the stronger position strategically. Israel can only meet its stated war goal if it completely stops the rocket fire from Gaza. That is almost physically impossible, even if Israel occupies the whole place–at a high cost in IDF casualties that will continue so long as they stay there. Hamas wanted an Israeli ground invasion, because that allows them to get at the IDF. The only way Israel can achieve its war aim is with a negotiated agreement, and Hamas is so far sticking to its war aim of lifting the blockade of Gaza. In that sense, this war is aimed as much at Egypt as Israel, since the blockade is enforced by both countries. Unless Hamas relents and agrees to a cease-fire with the blockade still in place or is overthrown and replaced by a different regime, it is likely to get what it went to war for. As usual, comparative attrition is a poor way to judge who is winning. At the moment, it’s Hamas. tr favicon